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Bible Discipleship Ink Slingers Maurisa Prayer Reading Spiritual Growth

Battling Acedia

Battling Acedia

Anxiety, depression, listlessness, sloth, apathy—those are just a few of the emotions I’ve experienced the last year. Let’s face it, 2020 was rough and the pessimist in me is feeling 2021 doesn’t look much better. Sitting and stewing in negative emotions is not where we should be and certainly will not change the world around us. What is a faithful Catholic to do? If you have heard of Saint Benedict’s motto: Ora et Labora (pray and work), what I propose below will seem fairly familiar and may assist in overcoming the malaise of 2020.

It is proved by experience that a fit of acedia should not be evaded by running away from it, but overcome by resisting it.

Saint John Cassian

Physical Health

The “Covid-19” weight gain may be something we all joke about, but I have been truly guilty of neglecting my health the last several months. One way for us to combat lethargy and malaise is to take care of our physical health. I’m not proposing we all go on strict diets and start exercising like maniacs, but I am encouraging us all to take a look at how we are neglecting our health by eating poorly and by not moving our bodies in some way. It is a medical fact that physical health is very closely linked to mental health. For a good start, try cutting sugar, alcohol, and processed foods out of your diet and make sure you’re eating nutritiously dense foods including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you are staying adequately hydrated (think 8 glasses of water each day).

Very few of us are employed in manual labor as Saint Benedict’s monks would have been in his day, but physical activity is an integral part of physical health. Move your body. Start slow and easy if you’ve been neglecting regular exercise. I count a good house cleaning or weeding in the garden as being physically active. Grab a friend, a child, or your spouse and go for a walk. Getting your activity out of doors is a huge plus as adequate “sunny” vitamin D is also linked to improved mood.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Intellectual Health

Mindlessly scrolling through social media, bingeing on Netflix, anxiously watching or reading alarming news accounts can all be huge contributors to general torpor. Set time limits for yourself or avoid these activities altogether and instead focus on something that will improve your mind. In his holy rule, Saint Benedict encouraged his monks to read selections from the Holy Fathers to grow in virtue and knowledge. Read a great book, play games with your family, work on brain teasers or puzzles, learn a new skill; anything that takes you out of yourself and causes you to engage your brain in a more challenging activity. Cultivating an intellectual life will be time well spent leading to much less time scrolling mindlessly through social media.

Spiritual Health

Acedia is primarily an issue of the spirit. Squandered time and can rob us of hope and joy. This is where the battle is most importantly focused. If you’ve been struggling or have given in to listlessness take it to confession as soon as possible. Repenting of the sin of sloth is probably the most important step in overcoming acedia. Next, you must take active steps to combat this sin in your spiritual life.

Pray for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit. Start spending more time in deliberate silence, prayer, and spiritual reading. Set a goal of devoting an hour a day in prayer and/or spiritual reading. Divide that time into reasonable parts throughout the day. Try to cover the ACTS of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Read from the Bible everyday. The readings from daily Mass are a great place to start. Read encouraging and good spiritual works that will help you grow in holiness. 

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin.  God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.

Saint Francis de Sales

Three Hours

We are given the gift of 24 hours each day. What are we spending those hours on? Obviously, adequate sleep is important, but are we making the most out our waking hours? It may seem pretty difficult to devote an hour a day to each of the three: physical labor, education, and spiritual works. We are a busy people but it is not completely impossible. Start with a shorter length of time for each or combine two. You might listen to a podcast or pray while you exercise or clean the house, for example. The world seems to be in a real downward spiral. If we do not pull ourselves out, how can we ever hope to change it for the better? Called to evangelize the world, it is time to cast aside our inactivity, pull up our sleeves and get to work. Who’s with me?

Resources:

How Mental Health and Physical Health are Linked

How Fit Are You?

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

Daily Bible Reading with the Church (takes you through the entire Bible in 2 years)

USCCB Daily Readings

Divine Intimacy

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Imitation of Christ

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

An Introduction to the Devout Life

The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times (ebook)

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa Reading

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

Two years ago Catholic Sistas provided The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Book List for Families. I’ve done a lot of reading since then and felt we could use an updated list of worthy spiritual reading for this Lent. This time our reading list is especially targeted to intrigue you, dear Sistas.

My number one pick for this Lent is the classic by Saint Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. I spent several months reading this gem during my weekly hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. 20 plus years a Catholic and I’d never read this book before. It completely changed my spiritual life. If you are searching for inspiration in becoming as holy as God Wills you to be according to your state in life this book is the perfect fit.

I recently finished reading Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age which is a published, extensive interview of my current hero, Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Diane Montagna. The book includes an impressive biography of the bishop who lived through the persecution of the Church behind the Iron Curtain and then proceeds in examining the many issues facing the Church today, including the numerous scandals and deep confusion we are currently experiencing. Not only does Bishop Schneider examine the crises, he offers concrete solutions. He’s an inspiring contemporary figure in the Church today and his interview left me feeling very hopeful about the future of the Church.

Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a fictional conversation imagined by Peter Kreeft. I really enjoyed the idea of this book written as if three of my childhood heroes were discussing the reality of the Eucharist. As an adolescent I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals in my home town. I always admired him and if Peter Kreeft got it right, I was able to somewhat understand his misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Of course, I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien and had no difficulty picturing their contributions to the fictional dialogue. As a Catholic, this experiment of Dr. Kreeft’s helped solidify my belief and understanding of the Real Presence.

We had an unusual influx of visitors to our home this past year. Our dear friends from Maryland, who are godparents to one of our younger boys, were able to come and stay for a long weekend. While visiting, my friend Debbie, was reading Overcoming Sinful Anger: How to Master Your Emotions and Bring Peace to Your Life by Rev. T.G. Morrow. She left her copy behind for me and I read through it quite quickly. This is definitely a book to keep in your home library, especially when you or a family member is struggling with anger, as many of us do from time to time.

I oversee a Catholic women’s book club and this year we read the popular Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe. This is another little book to keep ever present in your home library. It is an extremely valuable spiritual work to have on hand in especial times of turmoil, distress, and anxiety.

Another work our book club read was You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean. I loved this book devoted to Old Testament women and their stories. Danielle’s writing style is very accessible and relevant to today’s woman. I loved her take on each of the stories and how she related their lessons to episodes in her own life.

After hearing an interview with Dr. Carrie Gress on Patrick Coffin’s podcast regarding her book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminism, I went on a Carrie Gress kick and had to read most every book she’d written. Before diving into her book The Anti-Mary Exposed, I recommend you start with her The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. I also highly recommend Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood, especially for moms of younger children. I really wish I’d read that one when I was a young mom, but I did give it to my adult daughter who is a brand new mom to my first grand baby and she found a great amount of wisdom in her reading of it. Bonus: My two youngest boys did their Marian Consecration last May using her Marian Consecration for Children which was simple enough for our first communicant and challenging enough for our confirmand.

Danielle Bean interviewed prolific Marian author Marge Steinhage Fenelon on a recent episode of her Girlfriends podcast. Inspired by her most recent book, My Queen, My Mother–A Living Novena, I researched and wrote a piece for Catholic Sistas filled with Marian pilgrimages one could make right here in the United States. I also read her powerful Forgiving Mother–A Marian Novena of Forgiveness and Peace. Part autobiography and part devotional to Our Blessed Mother, I found it to be an extremely valuable read even though I do not have a particularly strained relationship with my own mother.

Another of my very favorite books from this past year was The Priests We Need to Save the Church by my new friend Kevin Wells. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview which was published here in December 2019. While his target audience is priests and bishops, Kevin’s book has tremendous potential for inspiring the laity to embrace the “universal call to holiness.”

In the next few days I’ll be finishing up Jay W. Richards’ newest book–Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul–A Christian Guide to Fasting. Dr. Richards (PhD in philosophy and theology) explores the history of fasting and how it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. He then goes on to encourage a return to a regiment of intermittent and long term fasting for physical as well as spiritual health. The book lays out a 46 day plan for preparing your body for longer fasts by putting it into a state of ketosis–a method which he promises will make fasting much easier without sacrificing the spiritual element. Being a true Catholic, Richards does not neglect addressing the spiritual value of feasting after the fast. With Lent upon our heels, I personally wanted to step-up my fasting and penance and this book may really help prepare the way.

What am I reading this Lent?

I have three spiritual works on my list this year.

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

What are you reading this Lent?

I love seeing what other Sistas are reading. Share your Lenten reading choices with us in the combox.

–Note: I provided links for each of the listed books. As far as I was able I linked to author websites or to Catholic merchants.

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Reading Sarah Reinhard

My Changed Reading Time

MyChangedReadingTime
It’s hard not to marvel at my changed reading time.
 
But wait, first, let me start at the beginning: I read.
 
I’ve accepted this about myself.
 
Surely, I have other hobbies. (Or maybe I just have a family. Does that count?)
 
But really, I read. It’s how I define myself, and it’s truly my favorite of the things I could list. It’s a hobby that has opened vistas for me, and you’ll find proof of it all over my house.
 
In the front room, subdivided into an office, there are overflowing bookshelves. In the office section, there’s another bookshelf, and baskets of books on my table/desk, and piles of books on my other shelf. In the kitchen, there’s a basket of current reads under the cupboards, by the breakfast bar. There are odd books left out (I blame the kids) and baskets of books and toys jumbled together (again, the kids). All of the kids have books in their rooms, in various states of organization (or disarray, as the case may be). And my room has a few books by the bed. And we mustn’t forget the bathrooms, though we don’t view them as much a library as some do. 
 
My purse is host to a whole library, thanks to the technology made available from my phone and my Kindle. That’s saved me from needing a backpack-sized purse for the “blankie book” I need to make sure I have with me at all times. (The book itself changes. The fact that I need one does not.)
 
These things are set. They’ve changed a bit over the years, but not by much.
 
What’s changed in my reading life is my reading time itself. It used to be wedged between nearly everything, and available in long stretches quite often. It used to be largely uninterrupted, unless I wanted it to be interrupted. It used to be about me and what I liked.
 
Now, I find that my reading time is part of a bigger picture. It involves other people in a way it never did before. Sometimes, those other people live in my house and they want me to be part of their reading time. They turn my reading time into a shared experience.
 
Other times, the other people are authors whose work I’m reviewing. They may be friends who have trusted me to read a book they’ve written. They may be strangers who reached out to me. They may be just the name on the cover, sent to me by a publisher or agent.
 
And then there are my reading friends, people who have become part of my reading time by their suggestions and their influence on how (and what) I read.
 
My reading time used to be mostly novels. Then, in grad school, it became mostly multiple assigned textbooks and business books at a time. I moved into reading to learn about things: my faith, some skill, random nonfiction. And then, with children came parenting books and children’s books, intentional middle grade and YA reads and revisiting old favorites.
 
Most recently, my reading time has turned into part of my job. (And, honestly, I never thought that could even be a reality in my life, so we’ll just have a shared jump-up-and-down moment together, shall we?) 
 
There are books I’ve read that I never would have picked up without the circumstances in my life. There are books I never would have enjoyed if I hadn’t grabbed them in desperation to escape the chaos of my home. (It’s a good chaos, mind you. But sometimes, I just want to read.)
 
My reading time has also changed because, well, I have changed. I’m older now, for one thing. I’ve read a lot more, and I’m more likely to just stop reading a book, no matter how good That Person said it would be or how much Certain Human said I should read it. 
 
I’ve been Catholic now for nearly two decades. I’ve been married for 15 and a mother for 14 of those. I’ve learned things beyond my various degrees and my different professional experiences. Life has interrupted my plans and taken me far beyond where I would have gone on my own.
 
And that, my friends, has only made my reading time better. ?
Categories
Books Domestic Church Reading Reviews

Best of My 2018 Reading: Nonfiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

Best of My 2018 Reading: Nonfiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

I used to think I was an all-fiction-all-the-time type of reader, but last year proved me wrong. Last year, I found out that I love nonfiction just as much.

I had a stretch of binge reading, and it included some great novels.

But I found something missing. I wanted something that {gasp} wasn’t fiction.

I read a lot of nonfiction anyway, both for paid review and for pleasure. There’s so much to learn. There’s so much that’s good. There’s…just…so…much.

So without any more rambling, here are my favorite nonfictions reads from my 2018 pile!

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat. This was a book I couldn’t whip through, and yet one that I savored and couldn’t put down. Reading it felt anything but accidental, that’s for sure. (I wrote about that here.)

To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, by Robert E. Barron. My first inclination with this was to offer it to a new deacon at our parish, who, as it happens, had already read it. Barron has a way of boiling things down and, yet, also planting seeds that stay with you.

Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn about Healing, Freedom, and Joy from the Women of the New Testament, by Elizabeth M. Kelly. Water is a recurring theme that Elizabeth Kelly uses throughout this book, and it struck me throughout. It began like a long cold drink on a hot day: refreshing and soothing. It continued like a mug of steaming tea: comforting and snuggly. It traversed the paths of a wet washcloth on a hot forehead, a shared laugh over a glass of iced tea, a moment together over the baptismal font. Kelly’s depth of insight and the reach of her wisdom went right to my heart, in each and every chapter. The book examines eight women from the New Testament, and they may not all be the ones you expect. Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Martha and Mary of Bethany: no surprise there. But a shepherd girl who was there on Christmas night? That caught me…and captured my imagination. Kelly has a way of doing that throughout this book, and it’s a beautiful experience.

Clueless in Galilee: A Fresh Take on the Gospels, by Mac Barron. You’ll laugh, yes. (A lot, if you’re like me.) But you’ll also look differently at those Gospel stories that may be so old hat that you don’t even hear them anymore. I love Barron’s approach to “riffing” on the Gospels, and I also appreciate his innate ability to challenge readers to go beyond.

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both, by Jennifer Fulwiler. I’ve been following Fulwiler for quite a while, and I’ve enjoyed watching her hard work pay off in success. I read this in a can’t-put-it-down kind of way and laughed so hard, at times, that I was crying. She has a self-deprecating way of writing and sharing her life that makes her approachable. This book also challenges readers to think beyond their constraints — it’s equal parts memoir, humor, guide, and good story.

The Fisherman’s Tomb: The True Story of the Vatican’s Secret Search, by John O’Neill.This reads like an adventure in many ways, and yet it’s true. O’Neill has a way of turning the dry facts into interesting tidbits, and the pictures don’t hurt either. This is a book you can whip through and then find yourself saying, “Wait, what just happened? Was that real?”

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel.I’ve become a late-to-the-game Anne Bogel fangirl. I listened to this, but I think I’ll be getting a hard copy because…truth. She speaks to me and inspires me with her reading.

How Catholic Art Saved the Church: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art, by Elizabeth Lev. This book was such a gift to read. I didn’t mean to start reading it, to be honest. I was just leafing through it, looking at it and admiring the pictures. I glanced over the table of contents and the introduction caught my eye. I’ll read just about anything, but this was GOOD. Elizabeth Lev is a master storyteller: She had me flipping to examine pictures, smiling at what I read, and thoroughly enjoying every aspect of this book. Of course, at least part of that was because of the beautiful job Sophia Institute Press did with the actual book: thick, glossy paper and four-color, magazine-quality images. Truly, this is a book that’s an aesthetic delight on many levels.

Lovely: How I Learned to Embrace the Body God Gave Me, by Amanda Martinez Beck. I read this book for the first time this year (it’s a new release, so I couldn’t have read it sooner), and then I reread it. I think, in fact, I’ll be reading it a third time in 2019 with a group of friends. Beck starts strong and finishes stronger. I think every woman probably needs to read and reread this book.

What nonfiction did you read last year? What did you love (or hate)?

Categories
Books Domestic Church Ink Slingers Reading Reviews Sarah Reinhard

Best of My 2018 Reading: Fiction Edition with Sarah Reinhard

BestofMy2018ReadingFictionEditionwithSarahReinhard

While I drink enough coffee to drown a fat pony, I also read enough books to weigh that same pony down. Well, it was a lot for me, and a respectable 100+. When Martina heard that I had written about my favorite reads of 2018, she invited me to share it here. Never one to be outdone in ideas, I offered to do one for fiction and one for nonfiction.

So, let’s dive into my favorite fiction reads from 2018, shall we?


East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. This was a massive novel I intended to read years ago. I started by listening to it, and tried to supplement my listening with reading (because I have the book). I just couldn’t limit my enjoyment of it to the times when I could hear it. The story was huge and long and wonderful in all the ways I love.

Endless Water, Starless Sky, by Rosamund Hodge. This is the sequel to Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. I’m not classically trained, but Hodge is. I know, at some level, that I miss a huge amount of her brilliance because of my own ignorance. And yet, I am hopelessly a fan of hers. Of the books she’s written, I think these two may be my favorites. I’d call this the best writing I read all year, judged on actual writing and on storytelling and on enjoyment level.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1), by Neal Shusterman. I heard this referenced as someone’s favorite book, and that’s sometimes all it takes for me to run after a book. I read and loved Shusterman’s so it stands to reason that I may like his other books. I just…hadn’t gotten around to them. Though this is first in a series, it stands alone. Once again, Shusterman has taken an old trope of a question and carved it into a mind exercise of a book. There’s a plot, but there’s also the exploration of ethics and the great what-if. AI meets immortality meets scandal meets human nature. This is a book not just to read, but to discuss and ponder.

The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld, a Novel, by Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.This book made me want to actually attempt Homer and some other classics. (I’ve read Dante, so I got those references.) And yet, the book made sense without any of that and only a rudimentary knowledge of what I knew were deeper references. The adventure was great, peppered with humor. I couldn’t put it down, and I found myself thinking of it in the times I wasn’t reading, which is, to me, always a sign of a great book.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather. I listened to this and found myself wanting to hold it and actually read the words. Cather paints an image of the Southwest that I could see as I listened.

A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. My teen daughter handed this to me, and I’ll be honest: I was going to quit if it didn’t pick up or something. Cameron has his own style, that’s for sure, and the premise behind the book didn’t make sense to me until I was about a third of the way through. And then…hooked. The storytelling is fabulous, and you’ll never look at a dog the same way again.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It seems like I’ve read it about even 18 months or so since the first time I read it. Every time I pick it up, I find some passage that was right there for me. The premise: A devil writes letters to his nephew, filled with advice and tips for tempting more effectively. Turn your expectations upside down and prepare to be wowed by Lewis’s wonderful writing.

The Cricket on the Hearth, by Charles Dickens. Another all-time favorite book, and one that inspired my handle for many years. This year, it also inspired me to read some other Dickens. It’s a family story, in many ways, and a glimpse at life many years ago. I never saw the movie (which I heard was horrible), but Dot Peerybingle remains a favorite character of mine.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. I listened to this via CraftLit and was then inspired to listen to the rest of the eight-book series. And then, because I couldn’t get enough, I listened to Before Green Gables and Marilla of Green Gables. My girls have both turned their noses up at Anne, but I think I’ll be revisiting her quite often.

What fiction did you read last year? What did you love (or hate)?